That was the gist of a dilemma that a reader described.
Last week, I received a message from Sara in Melbourne, Australia. She had taken our 4Leaf Survey and had a few questions. She began by sharing her score. Her words are in green italics. And she has already posted a comment that you will see at the end of this blog.
Dear Jim, My total net score was 8 on your 4Leaf Survey. Hi Sara and thanks for writing. That’s actually a pretty good score. That means that you scored near the top of the range for our 1-Leaf level, meaning that you’re probably deriving about 35% of your calories from whole plants. You’re also consuming about five times as much whole plant calories as the average Australian and are probably among your nation’s top 10% when it comes to healthy eating.
I found this very interesting because I have recently started the path to ‘going vegan’ and was under the impression that I was being ‘so healthy’. Yet, it seems I still have a long way to go. Sara, I notice that you lost points on the questions about eggs, added sugar, white flour, sweets/salty snacks, meat/poultry/fish and vegetable oil. (See Survey Form PDF)
And you are the latest to point out that the terms “vegan” or “vegetarian” are misleading. For a number of reasons:
- They mean different things to different people.
- When asked to describe what they eat, they begin with a list of what they DON’T eat.
- A great many vegans and vegetarians are unknowingly eating a very unhealthy diet.
How could that be? Two words — “Whole Plants.” They’re simply not getting enough whole plants in their diet. How much is enough? I will quote Dr. T. Colin Campbell:
“The closer we get to eating a whole foods, plant-based diet, the better off we will be.”
So we chose that statement as the foundation of our 4Leaf Program and set the top bar at 80% for the 4Leaf level. That simply means deriving 80% or more of your total daily calories from whole, plant-based foods. Sara continues:
I watched “Forks over knives” on an airplane a few months ago and it had a big impact on me, mostly because I felt that it was substantiated by hard science. I have never felt well eating meat and have barely touched it in the last few years.
I decided that I don’t want to wait for a ‘sickness’ to cause me to give my body the best food with the least load. Furthermore, the realization that protein utilizes calcium for its absorption really explains to me why so many people have osteoporosis even though they may have been drinking their milk and eating their yoghurt and cheese all their lives.
Now, I have embarked. I have no problem cutting out the meat, chicken and dairy. However, I find the fish and eggs harder. Eggs, because they are often an ingredient in foods and fish, because I feel it’s the lesser of the evils and when it is before me (if I make it for my kids) I may cheat.
My goal is to cut them out entirely when I get a good handle on eating high protein grains, legumes and generally changing my lifestyle. I am challenged with this: I really really like the milk in my coffee. Soy, Rice and Oat milk just don’t seem to cut it. How bad is that 1/8 cup milk everyday? I haven’t touched it in 3 weeks but I am missing it.
Sara, I used to put one cube of sugar in my black coffee—until about thirty years ago. That’s when someone told me that if I drank my coffee with nothing added for 30 to 45 days, that I’d never add that sugar ever again. He was right AND, for the first time, I discovered that I actually liked the taste of coffee. You should be able to do the same with that milk in your coffee.
In general, with all the bad things with these animal proteins, do you think one is only ‘protected’ from their harmful effects if one goes cold turkey? Or, do you think a little (very little) here and there can’t really do harm?
Sara, Have you read our book? In Chapter 10 I explained that 4Leaf eating should be a “mentality” instead of a diet. A mentality of making every bite count. The human body creates about 10 trillion new cells per year. I did the math, counted my number of bites per day and discovered that the future health of 100 million new cells is riding on every single bite that I put in my mouth. Every bite does make a difference.
Please share with me your insights. I am going to print out your program and increase my efforts to climb my way towards 4 leaf. Best wishes, Sara. Melbourne, Australia.
The Bottom Line. Here’s my deal. I never PLAN to eat ANY animal foods and I never BUY any. But occasionally I might have a few bites as a guest in someone’s home. The key is establishing a health-promoting 4Leaf routine. Make sure that all of your standard “go-to” meals are 4Leaf.
Finally, if you haven’t read our book, you should do so. We devote a lot of attention to “why” you should eat a plant-based diet. With enough compelling reasons, you will have more convictions to do what you know is right.
One more thing, in Chapter 9, we recommend that you avoid baby-steps. In other words, don’t plan to gradually work your way up from 1-Leaf to 2-Leaf and so forth. Make a commitment to eat 4Leaf (with zero animal products) for two months. It will greatly raise your chances of permanent success. And your body will love you for it. Oh, and olive oil is not a whole plant. It is 100% fat and should be avoided in your routine meals. In the 4Leaf Program, we recommend that you keep your fat calories below 20% of your total. That’s a tough goal to hit if you’re using a lot of olive oil. I hope all of this helps. Thanks for writing, Sara; best of luck and be well, Jim Hicks.
PS: I look forward to hearing a report from you in about two months. And, with your permission, I will post that report for my readers.
Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from Amazon.com
- The movie that’s changing the lives of millions: Forks Over Knives DVD
- Healthy Eating, Healthy World, The “big picture” about food (our book)
- An essential scientific resource: The China Study by Dr. T. Colin Campbell
- Dr. McDougall’s new book, The Starch Solution, with lots of great recipes.
Want to find out how healthy your family is eating? Take our free 4Leaf Diagnostic Survey. It takes less than five minutes and you can score it yourself. After taking the survey, please give me your feedback as it will be helpful in the development of our future 4Leaf app for smartphones. Send feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org
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For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.
Got a question? Let me hear from you at email@example.com. Or give me a call on my cell at 917-399-9700.
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Blogging daily at hpjmh.com…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.
—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation
Thanks, Lisa, for your advice.
I changed my diet all at once, no baby steps. Many foods are addictive and as long as I was eating the wrong kind, I was always craving it. For me, it did take 2 full months to lose all the cravings to the things that weren’t good for me, but every day was better. So thankful I stuck with it. Every day I sought to find and read other’s success stories as a form of encouragement (engine 2 diet and happy herbivore post wonderful success stories).
As for the plant based milks, I found that they varied in taste by who makes them. I also discovered that as my diet changed and the cravings disappeared, my taste for food changed. There are things I like now, like almond milk and roasted beets, that I didn’t like before. My advice – keep it simple to start, find a few go-to meals you love and then start exploring. Stick with it, you won’t regret it!
FYI, I’m a native New Yorker(hi, out there!). My first ‘aha’ moment with regard to nutrition came 12 years ago when I was pregnant with my first child. I read a line in ‘What to expect when you’re expecting’ that has shaped my attitude. It said, MAKE YOUR CALORIES COUNT. Now, that is a play on the common diet theory to avoid unnecesary weight gain by COUNTING YOUR CALORIES, however by making them COUNT, one can ensure every calorie taken in has value for their nutrition and of course, the wider world.
I’m going to try the black coffee, thanks.I really appreciate that your on my tail, it will help me stay committed! And, by the way, your book is in the mail to me in Aussie Land, looking forward to reading it! Cheers!